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Olympic Bobsleigh champion Francesco Friedrich may miss last Friday’s training session in four-man competitions this weekend for two reasons.
First, he may need a break.
Second, he believes ice also needs a break.
Friedrich complained about the quality of the ice at the Yanqing Sliding Center after another four-day training session on Thursday, after doing so after posting one of the slowest moments in the field – finishing 25th out of 28 sleds in his the last run, a significant dive from its usual place near or at the top of the standings in most training sessions and racing sessions.
“The track is completely worn out,” Friedrich told German journalists.
The three-time Olympic champion – winner of gold in two and four people in Pyeongchang in 2018, and gold in two champions here in Beijing – is still the overwhelming favorite to win the four-man competition, which starts on Saturday and ends in Sunday, the final day of the Games.
But he killed the alarm, which is not uncommon until the end of the Olympics, as the ice tends to break. Even counting the unofficial training sessions that began a few days before the opening ceremony on February 4, the world’s best bobsledders, skeletonists and sled athletes have made more than 2,400 trips on the Yanting Highway in the past two weeks.
That’s a lot. And sledges for four people – the largest, heaviest and most harmful to the ice than any other. The Four Men is traditionally the final gliding competition of the Olympics, designed so that smoother and lighter sleds get the best ice for their competitions.
“There’s nothing left,” said Friedrich. – You are constantly dragged into the grooves, which has nothing to do with driving.
Ice, especially in training sessions and competitions of four people, often breaks down as you get used to it. The rule of thumb is this: the sooner you slide in a session, the better your time will be. Simulators from all over the world were brought to the Olympics to ensure the ice was as good as possible, and they have teams working on the ice after each workout and racing session, shaping and spraying the top of the surface.
The top-ranked sled is the first in most competitions, and Friedrich will have one of those coveted slots for an early start when the four-man competition kicks off on Saturday. But on Thursday, luckily – or unlucky, in this case – with a draw, he started after more than 20 sleds had already passed over the ice, and that meant he wasn’t getting as clean a surface as he usually gets bliss.
“If you drive that far back (in the starting order), it’s not fun,” said Friedrich.
Friedrich also showed that he did the tuning in his sleigh, and whatever he changed for Thursday’s classes – bobsledders rarely show specifics when it comes to tuning the sled – did not work the way he wanted, which also had a negative effect on his time. .
Justin Cripps from Canada was the second sled to come down the mountain in both workouts, which means he got about as much ice as he could. He was the fastest in both races.
Not surprisingly, his view of ice quality differed slightly from Friedrich’s.
“We had fresh ice at the beginning of the day and we went pretty clean,” Cripps said. “It was good.”
A number of the best women missed the last day of training, with most citing the need to rest before their last competition at the Beijing Games starts on Friday. Among those who did not perform: Olympic champion in monobob and three-time women’s bobsleigh winner Kaylee Humphreys from the United States, who said a few days ago that she would give up the final training.
“Some things are easier for four people, some things you need to be more precise, so it’s like a double-edged sword,” said four-person American pilot Frank DelDuca. “There’s a lot more stability. You can put the sled where you want, but if you make a mistake, the mistake sometimes gets a little bigger. But it’s cool. I’m very happy to race.”